Battles and campaigns

Jubal Early in the Valley, 1864

James Falkner described Grant's intentions to attack on various fronts with Hunter in the Shenandoah Valley and Butler approaching Richmond from due east. After the battles of the Overland Campaign Grant was "off balance". This led to the ill-fated attempt by Sheridan to link with Hunter, which culminated in the battle at Trevillian's Station. Hunter took Staunton before approaching Lynchburg. During the battle of Cold Harbor, Lee detached Breckinridge to hold Lynchburg. Then on 12 June 1864 Lee called Jubal Early and detached one-third of the Army of Northern Virginia to save both Lynchburg and the Shenandoah Valley. Lee was confident that this could be done.

 

 


Surprised by Early's arrival Hunter fell back. Early bypassed Hunter and advanced down the Valley. Harper's Ferry fell and on 4 July 1864 Early entered Maryland. Lew Wallace was moved from Baltimore and took up position on the Monocacy River. On 12 July there was a short fierce battle.

 

Wallace was forced to fail back on Fort Stevens, which was held in some strength also reinforced when Wright's VI Corps arrived. Early could make no further progress thereafter and pulled back to Harper's Ferry.

 

James emphasised that Early did not fail. It was not intended that he should capture Washington but even if he had he could not have held it. He did show however that the North was still vulnerable. Lee projected power vicariously through Early and Grant was forced to degrade his own strength.

 

As Early moved into the Lower Valley, he left Ramseur behind at Stephenson's Depot where he was driven out by Siegel. In the meantime Lee detached Richard Anderson to support Early. As a reprisal for certain events in Maryland, Early decided to teach the North a lesson with a raid on Chambersburg which was burned, although some Confederate cavalry refused to take part.

 

Grant decided to appoint Phil Sheridan to be commander in the valley. Sheridan, a westerner, was an unpopular choice. 0n 7 August I864, Sheridan was appointed commander in the Valley. He had three Corps; Wright's VI, Crook's VIII, and Emory's XVIII Corps.

 

Early spread his Corps between Martinsburg and Winchester. On 19 September 1864, Sheridan sprang into action. The Third battle of Winchester was a significant battle and a fierce one. Although there were 6,000 Union losses compared with 4,000 Confederate losses this was a Northern victory. It heralded the arrival of Sheridan as a significant commander, whilst so far as the Presidential election was concerned the victory had a significant impact.

 

Early's army was badly shaken and he withdrew up the Valley. Despite the fact that the Valley had many Union sympathisers, Grant took the decision that there should be a severe campaign to remove its usefulness to the Confederacy. After the Confederate defeat at Fisher's Hill, Early sent Tom Rosser to press the Union cavalry, but at the battle of Tom's Brook the Confederate cavalry was forced back up the Valley.

 

Sheridan camped at Cedar Creek and went off to meet with Grant. Early determined that John Gordon should turn the Union left flank. On 19 Oct 1864, Gordon struck Emory's X Corps in camp. It collapsed and North leaving Early in possession. Early unfortunately failed to make an echelon attack, despite arguments from Gordon, and the Confederate effort lapsed. Sheridan returned and persuaded retreating Union troops to go back. Crook's troops attacked Early's, who were taken unawares. They never recovered and retreated up the Upper Valley.

 

Early never campaigned in the Valley again and Lee directed his forces to come back to Petersburg (under Gordon!). Early was a broken man. His campaign had nevertheless drawn 50,000 men from Grant and had, arguably, extended the war by about 6 months. Early went to Canada and became a lawyer. In later years he became one of the creators of the "Legend of Lee".

 

Following James' excellent presentation there were two question and answer sessions which covered amongst other things Early's career, Early's failure at Cedar Creek, the limited use of repeater firearms and when did the South realise it was all over?

 

ACWRT (UK) 2000 & 2001